The Freeman-Boggs-Woody House, circa 1860, sits on a hilltop overlooking the historic mill village of Saxapahaw in Alamance County, just over the Orange County line. Today farm trucks make way for bicycles and commuters to Chapel Hill, Greensboro, Durham and Research Triangle Park.
A short walk down the hill and along Church Road brings you to the Haw River and Rivermill Village, which is sandwiched between the river and Saxapahaw Bethlehem Church Road. Here a vibrant community revolves around local food, music, and businesses (rivermillvillage.com).
The river that once powered the old cotton mill, built in 1848 by John Newlin, now houses upscale apartments, condominiums and businesses such as The General Store and the Eddy Pub that serves North Carolina-brewed beers.
Back on the hill, hundred-year-old magnolias and white oaks share space with giant hollies, walnut trees and dogwoods. A hundred-plus-year-old pear tree shades a sitting area near the house that was built by Newlin’s son, James, according to historical research by David Mickey, Sue Dayton’s partner.
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Dayton bought the 2,638-square-foot house at 5768 Church Road in 2008 and restored the rambling Greek Revival house and adjacent hundred-year-old hay barn. The house with new electrical and plumbing throughout now sits on almost four acres of mostly wooded land. The hay barn has new electrical wiring and plumbing and a second-story room of 720 square feet that could become a studio (now used as storage).
Also known as “The House on the Hill,” the two-story house has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a living room, office/den, sun porch/mudroom/laundry room, a center-island kitchen with walk-in pantry and a formal dining room. The dining room walls were salvaged from an old cook house on the property in the early 1930s by master carpenter Frank Woody, who also built pocket windows in the front bedrooms, back bedroom, upstairs hallway and downstairs bathroom.
All of the divided-glass windows are original to the house, except for three new windows installed in the 2008 restoration. Dayton’s love for antiques encouraged her to use period lighting and ceiling fans throughout the house.
The house still has original two-and-a-half-inch oak flooring throughout. Beveled-glass French doors lead from the kitchen to a flagstone patio that connects the kitchen with the well house, which also serves as a garden/tool shed.
The 1900s, two-story stairwell in the house was salvaged from a bank in Burlington. The upstairs bathroom has a cast-iron, claw-foot slipper tub — perfect for long soaks after a day cycling the byways around Saxapahaw.
The three bedrooms upstairs have large closets and cubbies storage. The office/study on the main floor could be used as a fourth bedroom. The downstairs bathroom has a claw-foot tub and shower combination.
Mickey wrote in his application to have the house designated as an Alamance County Historic Landmark (May 2013) that although a number of families had lived in the house over the years, many of them physicians in the community, the name now honors previous owners who lived in the house the longest and made significant changes to it: Richard Freeman, Charlie Boggs and Frank Woody.
Mickey wrote that Freeman “was a farmer who lived in the house until his death in 1860.” His wife, Sarah Foust, who died in 1839, owned 42 slaves who built the mill race at the Saxapahaw Cotton Factory for John Newlin. In her will, she left the slaves not to her husband, Richard, but to John Newlin with the stipulation that Newlin set the slaves free. Foust’s will “spawned a contentious battle over the fate of the slaves that went all the way to the North Carolina Supreme Court. Her wishes were finally realized when in 1849 the court ruled in Newlin’s favor, allowing Sarah Foust’s slaves to be taken to Ohio where they were set free.”
The Freeman-Foust marriage produced a son, Franklin, who became a doctor and lived in the house, as did his son, Dr. Richard A. Freeman. Other doctors living in the House on the Hill included Dr. G.K. Foust and Dr. Alfred Neese.
In the early 1900’s Charlie Boggs owned the house and built a small market and bicycle shop in front of the house called CF Boggs Grocery and General Merchandise Store. Boggs farmed lands surrounding the house and sold the produce to mill workers at Saxapahaw Cotton Factory. At this time, the house was truly the center of the community, Mickey wrote.“According to the old timers who still remember him,” Mickey wrote, “Charlie was a happy-go-lucky character whose whistling could be heard from one end of the village to the other. He was always quick to lend a hand or a small loan until pay day to those in need.”
“Former Saxapahaw postmaster Frank woody built the addition on the house in the early 1930s. Woody was a master carpenter,” Mickey wrote. Ruth Wood, Frank’s only living daughter, shared with Dayton and Mickey that the wooden walls the couple uncovered when remodeling the dining room were once a part of the cookhouse.
The house is now 85 percent insulated, has re-pointed chimneys with custom chimney caps, a wood-burning stove in the dining room and a Rinnai LP gas tankless hot water heater. A new septic system was installed in 2009. A new well was installed at a depth of 360 feet.
Mickey says his favorite place on the property is the hay barn that looks like the hull of an old boat turned upside down. It has been the scene of “great Halloween parties,” a jazz music video, and is “just a great place to relax and listen to the rain on the tin roof.”
Dayton loves the kitchen with its 1920 Roper LP gas cooking stove that is a replica of an old wood stove.
“We have had some great parties and get-togethers in the house,” Dayton said, “and it seems like everyone always congregates around the granite island in the kitchen.”She says her favorite outside space is a sitting area underneath a hundred-plus-year-old pear tree. Her favorite bath is upstairs – painted hydrangea blue with a slipper soaking tub that she can only describe as “Yum.”